Have you been in a situation where you were at your vulnerable self and honestly poured your heart out to someone only to get unsolicited, unwanted advice from the other person?
If yes, you will know how desperately we humans search for no-judgment listening in these moments of intense vulnerability. You will understand the importance of having a heartfelt conversation where the other person just listens and supports you without the added pressure of finding a solution to your problems.
However, even with this importance, most of us don’t know how to listen without giving advice. Like most people, your first instinct while listening to someone’s problems is to try to offer a solution.
After all, isn’t this the natural response?
Who doesn’t want a solution to their problems?
Unfortunately, even though giving advice might sound like the naturally correct reaction, it usually backfires. This is because when a person shares their problems with you, they are generally looking for support rather than solutions. They are looking to feel heard and seen rather than being bombarded with unsolicited and unhelpful pieces of advice.
Therefore, when you don’t know how to listen without giving advice and jump on the bandwagon of providing solutions, you lose the ability to support people when they really need you to. This is precisely why learning how to listen without giving advice is important.
To help you get started, here are some tips on how to listen without giving advice or passing judgment.
1. Let people feel what they are feeling.
The very step in how to listen without giving advice is to let people understand and accept their feelings. For instance, if a person, while having a conversation, says, “I am sad,” do not counter their admission by saying something like “Don’t be sad.”
Even though you are just trying to make them feel better, it is important to understand that they will only be able to overcome this negative emotion once they fully own it. Therefore, at the very onset, don’t tell the said person what they should or shouldn’t feel. Even worse, do not make them feel guilty about feeling a particular way by saying something along the lines of “This is crazy.” The feeling is already there. Let them face it head-on so it eventually loses its hold on them.
Instead, you can use words like, “I bet it is very difficult,” or “That makes so much sense” to make them feel better.
2. Find out what the person wants from you.
Do they need to be comforted or held?
Do they need someone to advise them?
Do they just need someone to listen to them while they rant?
When someone is having a heartfelt conversation with you, it is essential to understand what they need from that conversation. Most of the time, if they need any kind of advice, they will ask you upfront about it. Therefore, look for these cues while having such conversations.
3. Ask meaningful questions.
Another important step in how to listen without giving advice is to ask meaningful questions to the other person. This does not mean the generic questions of what, why, how, when, and whom. This means digging on a deeper level and helping them confront their emotions. Sympathize with their answers and let them finish speaking before asking another question.
Additionally, it is important to be careful while asking questions. Sometimes too many questions can make the other person defensive. This may lead to them becoming more closed off during the conversation. Therefore, ask questions only when necessary and be empathetic and kind while doing so.
4. Reassure them realistically.
Giving advice like “It will all be fine,” “It could be a lot worse,” or “You just need to get your mind off this” is definitely not something you would want to use in such conversations. This rarely helps people and instead leaves them feeling disappointed and dejected.
Instead, try to say something helpful like “We will get through this together,” “I am there for when you need me,” or “I believe in you.”
Read more: Here’s What Not To Say To Someone With ADHD
Learning how to listen without giving advice is tough. Most people feel the constant need to offer advice while listening to someone’s problems, regardless of their experience or expertise in the matter.
However, it is important to accept that it is okay to listen without giving advice. After all, bad advice will only do more harm. Sometimes all that people need is someone to make them feel heard and seen. Therefore it is okay to just listen to people and ask if you can be of any help. This way, you will be able to support them and restrict yourself from giving any unsolicited or unwanted advice.
If you are looking to have a conversation with someone who is not okay, it is important to learn the right way. To learn more about how to ask someone if they are okay, click here.
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